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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kyle Busch’s competitors weigh in on his dominating year

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- One question has been on the mind of NASCAR fans and competitors all season -- How did Kyle Busch go from occasional contender to field-killer in the course of one year.

If you ask 2-time champ Jimmie Johnson, it’s about maturity and taking better care of his equipment.
“I have worked with him as a teammate and have always known that he’s a special, special talent,” Johnson said. “I told him a couple of years ago, ‘Once you figure out how to win, you aren’t going to stop, but you have to stop knocking the right sides off your cars and crashing in practice and taking unnecessary risks.’ He has figured that out this year and he has been on fire. Once he understands how to win a championship, he is going to be tough to beat each and every year.”

Former champ Matt Kenseth said he’s mostly surprised because he thought the Car of Tomorrow would create more parity.
“It’s pretty amazing. He’s done it all pretty much on speed and having real fast cars,” Kenseth said. “With this car, I don’t think a lot of us thought that would happen. There’s so many rules and regulations that are so close to the same, you would think that would bring more different winners, but it hasn’t really been the case.”

What does the man himself think about this meteoric rise? Well, even he didn’t anticipate all this success.
“I wouldn’t have moved to a team that I didn’t think they could have the same succeess that I had at Hendrick Motorsports,“ he said “This much -- no. You couldn’t have thought of that, but it’s definitely been a lot of fun.”

Jeff Gordon said he always knew how talented Busch was, and that more success would come as he matured. But he‘s more surprised by how strong the entire Gibbs organization is performing.
“I’m surprised not as much by him, but I’m more surprised at how good that team is,” Gordon said. “He did well with us, but now with that team, they’ve both gone to a whole other level.”

Gordon said that right now, nobody is performing at a level of consistency that will allow them to challenge Busch for the title if he keeps up at his current pace.
“We’re certainly wanting to find that. So far, no. I think Jimmie (Johnson) has, at times. And Carl (Edwards) has, at times,” Gordon said. “But other than that, nobody has, And we have some work to do before we can.”

In my view, if you look at the whole situation, it’s basically been a perfect storm for Kyle this season.
First off, he’s a great driver by anyone’s count.
Second, the Gibbs organization stepped up its game majorly this season.
Third, the Toyotas have seen an extreme improvement this season.

Combine all that, and you get the amazing season that Kyle has had so far. He already has a huge advantage as soon as the Chase starts, and will run away with the title if he keeps this up during the Chase.

Speaking of Kyle, he voiced support this week for the Cup series just running at each racetrack once each year, and adding some new ones to the schedule for about 28 total races. Don’t hold your breath, Kyle. That’s never going to happen.

Points? What points?
Despite barely being in the Chase at the moment, Matt Kenseth said this weekend that he doesn’t factor that in to how he races.
“I don’t think about anything in the racecar except for finishing and doing the very best we can do that day. … You look at (points) during the week or on the way home,” Kenseth said.

Despite his precarious situation, he said he’s not going to be overly cautious in the final few races leading up to Chase.
“To put the pressure on the last three of four weeks left isn’t really a fair thing to do.” Kenseth said. “It starts at Daytona. We’ve been doing the best we can for the first 22 and we’ll do the same for the last four.”

Kenseth said one asset that might help him make the Chase is that all five Roush teams share all of their information to help each other.
“We share all of it,” Kenseth said. “The idea is, if we have one guy that’s strong, he’s helping the next guy.”

Edwards should complete sweep
After his strong showing in winning the Nationwide race and his pacing of Happy Hour, I’d have to say it’s hard to pick against Carl Edwards in today’s race.
Edwards is money in his 8 starts at MIS (1 win, 4 top-5s, 7 top-10s). Barring a fuel mileage race throwing off the finishing order, I don’t see him being beaten.
My dark horse is Mark Martin, who was very strong in practice at MIS and is hungry for a win before he moves on to Hendrick Motorsports next year.

FYI about MIS
-- The first race at MIS was 500 miles
-- The first race winner at MIS was Cale Yarborough; first pole winner was Donnie Allison
-- David Pearson has the most wins at MIS, with 9
-- 15 drivers have won from the pole
-- The Wood Brothers have won 11 races at MIS, most recently in 1991 with Dale Jarrett


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